Hitting All the Right Notes at Your Wedding

Here's what music to play—and when to play it—during your big day.

Whether you’ve hired a band to play, a DJ to spin, or an iPod to do its iPod thing, you’ll need to choose your wedding music. With many moods to satisfy throughout the celebration, we’ve broken down the big day into smaller sections, explaining the types of tunes you’ll want for each.

Processional: Although your beauty will stun them into silence, you don’t want an awkward hush to overpower your walk down the aisle. The processional music requirements are twofold: You’ll need one song for your bridesmaids, and one for your entrance. For your solo act, go traditional (“Here Comes the Bride”), classic (Pachelbel’s Canon in D), or something totally different, like an instrumental version of your favorite song.

Recessional: You’ve just tied the knot, and with the big party on the other end of your big exit, your recessional music should be upbeat. Mendelsshon’s “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always a safe bet, along with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from Symphony No. 9. We, however, wouldn’t shy away from Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”—after all, he’s yours.

Cocktail Hour Music/Dinner Music: If you’re hosting a cocktail hour before the reception, mood music is important. To keep it low-key (since dancing hasn’t started yet), jazz is always a nice selection, along with crooner tunes or classical music. Same goes for when guests are eating; you’ll want to keep it mellow and melodious.

Reception Entrance: When you enter the room as a married couple for the first time, your music selection sets the tone for the party. Choose a song that’s fun and celebratory but not too powerful.

The First Dance: This is your song. No rules here.

Father/Daughter Dance: When dad takes his daughter for a spin, tears are almost sure to follow. Keep this traditional or put your own personal spin on it. You might consider a mother/son dance as well.

Reception Music: This is the bulk of your music after your guests eat, so it’s time to kick things up a notch. The music should reflect the good time you want all to remember after they leave, so get the party going with a good selection of dance songs (think pop, swing, or funk). It’s also a good idea to give a list to the DJ or band for requests you do not want them to honor (just say no to “Macarena”).

Cake-Cutting: If you’re planning on chopping into your confection with your new partner in crime, pick a sweet upbeat song to accompany the action. Keep it classic (perhaps the James Taylor version of “How Sweet It Is”) or go for a more modern approach (U2’s “Sweetest Thing”).


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